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A Dystopian World with André Andersen of Royal Hunt

A Dystopian World with André Andersen of Royal Hunt

Photo Credit: Allen Ross Thomas

A Dystopian World with André Andersen of Royal Hunt

Royal Hunt has returned with their 15th studio masterwork entitled Dystopia, and it’s guaranteed to intrigue progressive power metal fans all over the planet.  From the imagination of founding member André Andersen and featuring the mesmerizing lead vocals of long time collaborator D.C. Cooper, Dystopia’s rock opera style presentation also contains guest performances from the likes of Mark Boals (Yngwie Malmsteem, Ring Of Fire) and Mats Leven (Candlemass, Therion).  Highwire Daze recently interviewed André Andersen to discuss the world of Dystopia, working with former Royal Hunt vocalist Mark Boals on the new album, opening for the legendary Uriah Heep right before the beginning of the pandemic, a solo album he did for Frontiers Music Srl with Paul Laine (Danger Danger) and David Readman (Pink Cream 69), and others topics from a vast and epic career.  Read on…

Is there any overall story or concept behind the new studio album Dystopia?
The album name is inspired by a Ray Bradbury famous novel Fahrenheit 451. So, I was looking for a name for it, and in every article, I would dig up, they would describe it as a Dystopia – the world-famous novel. So, I just settled on Dystopia.

Mats Leven of Candlemass, Therion, and Treat appear on the single The Art Of Dying. How did he become involved with that song and the album?
I knew Mats for a bunch of years and when I was thinking about creating this kind of dialog in the song – a duet if you wish – I was looking for a specific kind of voice which was different from D.C.’s our original singer. Mats was just right there, so I just gave him a call and we worked a little bit on the song – and it turned out great!

Mark Boals is also on this new album in a guest appearance. What has it been like to work with Mark again?
It was fun! It was fun, because we made like two albums together, so I knew exactly what he likes – what kind of melodies and stuff like that. So, it was very easy working with him again. I just gave him a call and we talked a little bit – I explained to him that every singer will have a specific character in the story – and he got involved right away – he was into it. And it was pretty painless – it was pretty quick – we just exchanged some files here and there because for obvious reasons we couldn’t do it in Copenhagen, Denmark. So yeah, we exchanged files a couple of times and did some little corrections and adjustments – and that was it basically.

When you look back on those albums you did with Mark Boals as the lead vocalist, what do you think of them now in retrospect?
Excellent albums – especially the second one – because Mark is very well known for his high-pitched voice – I mean working with Yngwie Malmsteen and Ring Of Fire – so on purpose we shifted every single song down almost like half an octave to put him down a little bit – and realized he has excellent low range – very colorful – and we really exploited it on that particular album. So that’s my favorite of him.

What do you think has made you and D.C. Cooper work so well together on many of these Royal Hunt albums, including the new one Dystopia?
That’s hard to tell. I don’t know. We started way back in the 90’s on the first run. Yeah, we just clicked – maybe we think the same with this kind of music – it’s hard to tell. And on a social level as well – we’re getting along really, really well. So that probably some of the main reasons.

You have two members of Narnia in your band. One current – Andreas “Habo” Johansson (drums) and one former – Andreas Passmark (bass). How did they become involved and are you a fan of Narnia?
To be completely honest, I have never heard of them back in the day. Andreas the bass player – I think he joined in 2009 – a great player and a great guy. And then I kind of realized that he was playing in Narnia and this and that, so I had heard them for the first time. He’s been in the band for a few years. So, by the time Allan Sorensen our original drummer left, I started talking about drummers and Andreas suggested Habo – they were playing in Narnia together which was a great thing – because both of them living in Stockholm and they know each other – and it’s pretty important for a rhythm section. So, I said, “Let’s try it” and it worked out. Great guy!

Has Royal Hunt ever played here in the States?
Way back! We went and played there – I guess it was ’95 or ’96 or something like that. It was way back. We played support for a lot of bands. It was a weird time in the States – very weird. I think we played like 45-50 shows – in small clubs of course. And that was basically it. And since then, the only place we went back to twice is the Prog Power Festival in Atlanta. The last time I think was in 2015-16 or something like that. A great festival – a lot of great bands and nice people. We also played in I think 2010 with Mark Boals and the second time I believe was 2015 with D.C.

What has it been like to write and release new music in the middle of a pandemic and so much social unrest in the world?
We were actually a bit lucky in that respect because when we started writing and working on the album, it was actually before the pandemic started. We actually had a new plan, so I feel a little bit sorry for some of the bands I know – they were kind of planning tours and stuff like that, so it was chaos literally. But we started working on the album at the time, so when the pandemic hit, it didn’t change our plans that much. Of course, some things became a little more complicated, because you can’t travel and stuff like that. Generally, it didn’t affect us that much I’ll say.

And with the worldwide Internet you could do just about anything. You don’t even have to ever meet your band members…
Yeah, well we prefer to work in the studio all together – and we were actually fortunate enough to do most of the work even before the pandemic hit. But of course, some overdubs and the special guest singers has been done on Internet. Of course, we’re supposed to be on tour now – we were planning to tour in October / November 2020 but of course it never happened. We knew about that in March and April that it was not going to happen, so we didn’t suffer as much as so many other bands.

I haven’t seen a live show since March (2020). Live concerts, what are those?
Everything’s dead! It’s unbelievable.

What was the last live show that you saw?
Actually, it was the last show that I played. It was last year (2019), we played in October I believe – we played support for Uriah Heep here in Copenhagen.

What was Uriah Heep like? Did you get to hang out with them at all? They’re wonderful live!
Of course, yes – very nice guys. Very nice guys! I met them before. But it was fun – it was one of those bands that I listened to when I started out in the 70’s. It was unbelievable. I saw them a few times – such a jolly bunch!

Definitely a jolly bunch. Phil Lanzon their keyboard player has released two amazing solo albums. Let’s talk about your solo work now. When you look back on that Andersen / Laine / Readman album you did entitled III, what do you think of it now in retrospect?
Oh, I didn’t listen to it at all – I’d rather do my own albums. It was a fun project. It was very strange in the beginning because the idea was completely different when it started. I’d been in touch with Frontiers Records and they suggested I write a few songs for the at the time unknown and unnamed project. So, I did a few songs and then all of a sudden, they said “Okay, we’ll have different singers on it.” So, I said “Okay, whatever.” For some reason, like a month later they called me back and said, “Can you write the rest of the songs as well?” That was something completely different – not what I expected, so I ended up writing ten songs – and they actually came up with those two singers – Paul Laine and David Readman. So, it was a strange project but somehow it worked, and it came out fine.

It just seemed so unusual to have André Andersen from Royal Hunt working on an album with Paul Laine from Danger Danger – but it works like you said…
It was a strange combination, but it was one of those ideas that Frontiers has. They kind of became famous for doing these kind of projects – they have a few musicians – brought them together and see what’s gonna happen – and the album comes out. This particular one was probably one of these.

Do you have any other solo albums or projects on the horizon?
Not on the horizon – not at the moment because this Dystopia thing – it’s only the first part. Actually, it’s called Dystopia Part 1 – so I’ll continue working on Part 2 with different guest singers. So, it’s basically what I’m doing right now – because we can’t tour, so I might as well write. And we’re planning to release it – if everything goes well – in winter of next year (2021). And hopefully by that time we’ll be able to tour. So, let’s see what’s going to happen.

Do you have any messages for Royal Hunt fans here in the States?
I know we haven’t played in the States that much and not everybody was able to see us in Atlanta at those Prog Power Festivals – and by the way I hope we’ll play that Festival again. But anyway, we have a new album out – and it’s a very interesting one with different singers – it’s kind of like a rock opera in a way. So, give it a listen – give it a chance. I’m pretty sure you’ll like it.

That would be pretty amazing if you performed the entire album live with all of the guest vocalists…
Actually, that was the original idea. And that’s why it was very sad when October November didn’t happen, because we had already talked to Mark Boals and Mats Leven about participating – and we couldn’t at all. But now we have another person who is able to do Part 2 by next year (2021) when we start touring. So now we’ll have the entire concert built on those two albums (Dystopia Part 1 & 2) with all the singers. And that will be excellent.

(Interview by Ken Morton)

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